Coverage does not always mean agreement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

One of the first lessons young journalists learn in their education is to make sure readers know where information originates.

Attribution. Attribution. Attribution.

Journalists are taught that the quality of the information oftentimes rests with the quality of the source. If there is no source, that sometimes means there is no story.

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But what is often misunderstood by the public is that our desire to be fair is often misconstrued for bias. A perfect example of that on the national level is the gay rights movement.

Most everybody believes that media — on all levels — should be fair to all parties. Most everybody believes the media should give all involved parties a voice in matters of public interest.

However, when that occurs to people who have different points of view, and unpopular positions are explained, then those who disagree or are disaffected often point the finger at the messenger. Just because an individual or a group is given a platform does not mean that the particular media organization is endorsing that position or that group.

How many times have stories about gay rights, the ACLU or a court decision let to unfounded criticism of “the liberal media”? Likewise, how many times have stories from conservative sources led to criticism from the other direction?

The answer is often, when the media has done nothing except what is expected — to give everyone a voice in the public square.

The Ironton Tribune reported a much-discussed story this week that had been brewing for a few weeks. The granddaughter of county auditor Ray T. Dutey is being investigated for stealing about $25,000 from the treasurer’s office. She is expected to be charged in the near future, according to county prosecutor J.B. Collier, Jr.

Dutey had a limited role in the issue because he assisted his granddaughter with restitution. However, a political opponent seized the opportunity — in a very public fashion in front of the county courthouse — to criticize Dutey’s performance as the chairman of the county’s Republican Party and to ask for his resignation.

Those criticisms of Dutey led to some criticism of the newspaper for coverage of the protest and the theft. We stand by that coverage, but that does not necessarily mean we agree with the points made by the protester.

We also stand by the editorial position that officials should have been more forthcoming about the investigation. If you believe shareholders should be informed of thefts that involve their investments, then you should believe there should have been more disclosure because taxpayers are the county’s shareholders.

The bottom line is if officials had been more open about the theft, much of the protester’s thunder would have been stolen. Furthermore, it’s important for the public to remember this is their money and such a disclosure would not have been out of line.

Although this could have been handled better, we have not seen any evidence to support conspiratorial nonsense about a wide-scale cover-up. There is nothing to suggest Dutey was trying to obstruct justice in any way whatsoever and such accusations are unfounded and irresponsible.

But the coverage of this story and the developments that have transpired should not come as a shock to anyone considering public tax dollars are in play.

Rick Greene is the

managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at